Euro Football

Haaland test will give us taste of Euros: Northern Ireland’s Baraclough


Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough believes facing Norway sensation Erling Haaland again tonight could prove beneficial if his side make it to next year’s European Championship finals.

ne month ago, the prolific 20-year-old forward destroyed Northern Ireland as Norway won 5-1 at Windsor Park in the Nations League with the Borussia Dortmund ace producing two stunning finishes. He has not stopped scoring since.

How Baraclough’s team deal with him in Oslo will go a long way to determining the outcome of this evening’s encounter.

The Northern Ireland boss joked that Norway may have a deal with Dortmund to rest the most sought after youngster in football, though if he plays the visitors have to find a way to deal with him.

Baraclough also wants his players to learn from the experience, knowing that if Euro 2020 finals qualification is secured Northern Ireland will have more quality strikers to cope with next summer given that they would face Spain, Sweden and Poland in the group stages if Slovakia are defeated in next month’s play-off decider.

“He (Haaland) has played 120 minutes in a Euro play-off and 80 minutes the other night, so you’re maybe hoping Dortmund will have an arrangement with the Norwegian manager Lars Lagerback that he doesn’t play,” said Baraclough with a chuckle.

“But on the other hand, you want to play against the best players. If we want to prepare to go to a Euros, top teams and top players are something we’re going to come up against.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but you want to be thinking in positive terms and a lot of the teams you could come up against at the Euros will have these big players.”

Northern Ireland travelled to Norway yesterday with one notable absentee, Newcastle left-back Jamal Lewis.

“He’s gone to have a scan on his ongoing Achilles niggle, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s improving,” remarked Baraclough.

“He mightn’t be able to play the two games so quickly, so it’s something I felt Newcastle had in mind for the player anyway.”

On his team selection, which will see changes from the side that lost 1-0 to Austria on Sunday, Baraclough, who does not expect a high-tempo game, said: “We’re going to be sensible. We will make it competitive, but one or two players will get starts that haven’t started the two previous games.

“It’s important I look at these players and it’s important they get game time as well.

“We’re not fortunate enough to have a squad of players that you go and play three totally different teams and make massive changes like an England or Germany or Spain.

“There has to be a certain amount of continuity because we don’t have that amount of depth in our country. We’ll be prepared and the players know it’s the last game now before Slovakia so it’s a chance to impress in that respect.

“There were one or two frustrating conversations at the end of last month with players not involved. Players want to be playing games when they come away, of course they do, and you can’t keep everyone happy in that respect.”

While the Nations League may appear small fry compared to the Euro play-off final against Slovakia on November 12 in Belfast, Baraclough wants to improve results in the competition, aware that may have a bearing on future draws for other competitions.

“I’ve spoken several times about doing better in the Nations League and making sure we do give ourselves a chance of being in one of the higher pots,” said Baraclough.

“It’s also important to have the momentum of winning games and doing well to take that into your next game.

“We don’t want to go into the Slovakia game having been beaten by Austria – albeit by just one goal – and if you go and lose the next one, it’s doesn’t do any good for people’s confidence.”

Norway v N Ireland

Ullevaal Stadion, Tonight, 7.45pm

Belfast Telegraph

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